[JURIST] Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website; JURIST news archive] released a report [HRW materials; press release] Tuesday calling on the Saudi government to institute new legal protections for the country's estimated 1.5 million domestic workers. The group said that migrant domestic workers have fewer protections than those in other occupations, and are specifically excluded from the country's 2005 Labor Law [statute text]. HRW added that migrant workers are particularly vulnerable to abuse because their visas are tied to their employer, and that the workers, mostly Asian women, are subject to much of the sexual discrimination in the country [JURIST report]. The group said that not all workers were abused but that too many faced harsh conditions:
While many domestic workers enjoy decent work conditions, others endure a range of abuses including non-payment of salaries, forced confinement, food deprivation, excessive workload, and instances of severe psychological, physical, and sexual abuse. Human Rights Watch documented dozens of cases where the combination of these conditions amounted to forced labor, trafficking, or slavery-like conditions.
HRW encouraged the government to swiftly enact a proposed annex to the labor law, allow the workers access to new labor courts [JURIST report], and allow independent monitoring of the migrant worker system. AP has more.
In July 2006 HRW released a broader report [HRW materials] on conditions faced by domestic workers around the world, chronicling abuses in El Salvador, Guatemala, Indonesia, Malaysia, Morocco, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Togo, the United Arab Emirates, and the United States. In December 2006, former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan urged member countries [JURIST report] to sign and ratify the Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families [text] to protect domestic and other migrant workers.